I watched portions of the East Palestine/Norfolk Southern train derailment Senate hearing. Few, if any, seemed to know what they were talking about.
Senate persons and residents wanted “full commitment” from Norfolk’s CEO Alan Shaw now. They do not understand what they are talking about. Everyone was speaking from a basis of ignorance. I would have expected the Senators at least to have a basic understanding of how things will get to everyone’s goal.
The railroad will pay what the law requires. Not a penny more. However what the law mandates will be sufficient and overwhelming. The amount will be in the millions or billions. I realistically suspect in the billions.
Many others besides Norfolk will also pay. EPA law requires all potentially responsible parties to contribute. Who? Anyone who contributed to the disaster in any fashion before, during or after. Examples would include the decision to burn. Before this is over, those involved will be accused of an erroneous decision which aggravated the problem. Companies who repaired or may have provided defective train parts or tracks, companies that cleaned or repaired the railroad cars carrying the contaminants, etc. You will be amazed what the investigation will reveal.
Cause and effect are involved. All we hear about presently is effect. Understandable. People may get sick, etc. However who and what caused the derailment is important in determining who pays. Payment will be proportional.
Remediation will be worked on quicker than money in the pockets of residents for their actual problems. Health problems cannot be evaluated till they surface. No one buys a pig in the poke.
A structure is required to evaluate all phases of the case. A proper structure does not yet exist. There will be an EPA Superfund lawsuit initiated and managed by the EPA. It will be in federal court. The judge will oversee every phase of the mammoth convoluted litigation. Dozens to hundreds of lawyers will be involved. I had one case involving over 2,000 lawyers. I had to rent a movie theater for one hearing. The case will conclude with Consent Orders requiring payments by whom to whom, when and how. Time tables will be strict.
Understand litigation of this size and nature will take 5-10 years. Actual control by the court re the remediation itself at least 30 years.
In the meantime, everything gets done in an orderly fashion. This will not be the first rodeo by the court, EPA, most of the attorneys involved, the insurance companies, the experts, etc. They have been at it since 1980.
I am concerned at the moment by one thing which is occurring. It was indicated at the Senate hearing that a committee of 5 were making decisions as to cause and cleanup at the moment. Bad! There can be only one leader, one boss. Everyone sits at the table and participates in decision making. However, the final decision as to each and every step must be by one person. Compromise most times fails to take care of everyone and everything in proper fashion.
Keep in mind Eisenhower and D-Day. The Allies had a group of generals, admirals, etc. who sat and discussed what should be done and in what order. In the end however, only one person made the decisions. That person was Eisenhower. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
The EPA will be Eisenhower. The judge will review the EPA’s recommendation and generally goes with the recommendations.
Note the EPA is a difficult taskmaster in these cases. They know they have the power and do exercise it.
As I have suggested several times, this case is a different. It had all the indicia of a big one from day one. Which in this instance is good. Everyone has the opportunity to be involved early on. What has to happen is for things to develop, problems be discovered, injuries as well, etc. Deal with them within the framework developed. Since the matter is different, especially as to timing, innovative steps will be developed by the EPA, court and those involved to resolve claims along the way. Perhaps some sort of trust fund of dollars to begin paying resident claims.
The Senate hearing was no more than an opportunity for everyone to vent. The sooner this matter gets legal structure, the better.